With competition for quality employees peaking, now is a good time to make sure your practice offers what job-seekers are looking for. Among the top desires for today’s employee is an opportunity for growth in their career. Although small businesses have fewer rungs in their employee ladders than large corporations, providing a framework for advancement not only helps attract and retain employees, but also frequently results in improved quality of care and patient experience. From an employee perspective, “growth” can take on several different forms – personal, positional and financial.
Avenues of Improvement
It’s relatively easy to provide your employees with avenues for personal growth. You can draw from both internal and external sources of achievement. Internally, any situation where a new skill is mastered will qualify here. The possibilities are many and include anything from learning how to use practice software to its full extent, to becoming proficient with diagnostic instrumentation, to learning the finer points of dispensing eyewear. When considering options here, also keep in mind that the majority of today’s workforce enjoys learning to work with new technology. Of course, external sources offer a more formal, albeit more involved, path for career advancement. The American Optometric Association’s paraoptometric certification program provides education culminating in the certifications of CPO, CPOA, CPOT, and CPOC, and can offer an excellent path to achieve growth. Similarly, the American Board of Opticianry provides certification and continuing education for your opticians.
Remember that, no matter what new ability or title a staff member has gained, it’s important that their growth is recognized and celebrated in some manner. This is what separates your practice from other employers and results in a culture that is attractive to team members.
Internal Leadership Development
For most practices, offering positional growth is challenging simply due to the relatively small number of team members. For those with multiple employees in each of several departments, it makes sense to have a designated leader for each department. In addition to being an excellent system to help you manage your business, this creates several recognized positions within the company structure that are attainable depending on circumstances. To add to this, consider including those who are not team leaders for positions such as “mentor” of another employee or “owner” of a certain task or project. Although your staff may already be performing these functions, assigning such titles and recognizing the importance of these tasks can make a big difference in team morale.
Financial growth is something that employees rightfully expect as they become more skilled and experienced. The most successful practices often have highly skilled staff that have been with the practice for many years. Due to the cost and challenges inherent in staff turnover, maintaining high quality staff is now more important than ever before. For those practices that are already providing a competitive compensation package and whose staff costs are already at expected percentage of total expenses, some form of additional compensation based on performance should be considered. This can be based on individual performance or team performance (although I prefer the latter). Many models exist for this type of additional compensation, but they all share common components. Those participating must have knowledge of what is being measured. They must be given updates on progress toward their goals. Frequent two-way communication between employees and owners facilitates improvement toward the goals. The result is a more knowledgeable, committed staff with an ownership mentality that not only more than pays for their additional compensation, but also develops deep loyalty to the practice and a better patient experience.